Things you should do in Vegas. Episode: Gay Paree

February 17, 2013
Every once and awhile I write a blog post about things people should do in Vegas, like see Red Rock mountains or wake board Lake Mead or basically anything not involving The Strip. I am a true local and I want to prove to you there is SO MUCH MORE to my fair city.
The truth is, there is this road where I live with a whole bunch of hotels and casinos and odd attractions, and every once and awhile I drive down there, mostly to eat (my greatest overall motivation in life), sometimes to shop or meet friends. I rarely take my kids there because, I mean, self explanatory, right?
But my oldest daughter has always had this fascination with Paris. I don’t know if it’s all Eiffel tower lamps in the tween aisles at Target or fluffy poodles or the french bakery nearby that I occasionally (always) frequent. Whatever the reason, the ultimate reward for her as always been to go to the Paris Hotel and have dinner.
So a few weeks ago, the girls and I were at a birthday part on the other side of town. I missed my freeway entrance, and figured I’d drive them down the Strip for a bit, just to point out a couple hotels and share memories, like the time in high school when we snuck into the Tropicana Pool and had an impromptu party (midway through this story, I realized I should not be sharing this, and changed the ending to… “and then we found elderly people who needed help crossing the street and did that all night. Yay!) The girls saw the fake Eiffel tower and started begging to go there and I thought, you know, why not? There are so many tourist places here that locals never go to, because IT’S FOR TOURISTS, but I’d never been to the top either, so off we went.

Again, my oldest daughter, Rylee (8 and 3/4), had been talking about this for at least two years. I bought the surprisingly pricey tickets to ride the elevator upstairs, feeling like a hip, spontaneous mom as I curtailed my children across the fake bridge that led us to the fake monument. But just as we were about to get on the elevator, Rylee had a melt down. WE ARE GOING UP? THAT IS SO HIGH. WHAT IF WE FALL? WHAT IF A BIRD SMACKS US IN THE FACE AND WE DIE? Now, I’m an understanding Mom, but I’d already bought the tickets, so after much (little) sympathy, up we went. 
It was not a magical experience. I’d forgotten their coats, which on some winter Vegas days is allowed, but the chill up there was enough that I was getting judgemental looks. My 3-year-old screamed the whole way up. We got off the elevator, looped around, and were back on when the next one left. Ten minutes, tops. We promptly headed to a cafe to drink hot chocolate, and a traumatized Rylee said, “Well, that’s not what I wanted it to be.”
I guess it was a life lesson, because how many times do we romanticize something, only to be disappointed with the actual experience? Does it make the experience not worth experiencing? I don’t think so. We talked about the real Paris versus fake Paris, real anywhere versus Vegas’s version. And there is still some part that is similar. I mean, the tower was still half the size of the original. It took some courage to go up there. And just because our dreams might turn out the way we dreamed them, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t dream anyway.
Tomorrow, we’re going to Red Rock instead. This is more my speed.

Bonus: Here’s the video I did a couple of years ago when ANNA AND THE FRENCH KISS by the charming Stephanie Perkins first came out. When Rylee is older, I want to read this book with her and travel to The Real Paris. I want her to experience as much REAL as she can in life. But, for now, the Eiffel Tower chocolates were pretty decent 🙂

GOING VINTAGE sneak peek

February 5, 2013
Do you know what today is? DO YOU? Why, it’s February 5th! On this day in 1869, the largest alluvial gold nugget in history, called the “Welcome Stranger”, was found in Moliagul, Victoria, Austraila. And let’s not forget in 1985, when Ugo Vetere, then the mayor of Rome, and Chedli Klibi, then the mayor of Carthage meet in Tunis to sign a treaty of friendship officially ending the Third Punic War which lasted 2,131 years. Famed singer Bobby Brown was born this day (1969), as was Canadian curler Marc Kennedy (1982).
Clearly, February 5th is a day for celebration. And so I chose this day to share with you the first 3 chapters of GOING VINTAGE at no cost (except for whatever it costs to charge your laptop. And your carbon footprint). This isn’t a mini-teaser. This is a full-blown SNEAK PEEK. Then, of course, you can preorder for March 26 release. Because you deserve to treat yourself to a little prezzie. Bobby Brown would.
Oh February 5, you truly are glorious.

Embracing the cute

January 30, 2013
In high school, the identifier often used to describe me was cute. I say this not to brag, because I didn’t find this something to brag about. Cute means smiles, silliness and brainlessness. Puppies, cheerleaders, and baby rolls are cute. Not a 5’10” highschooler trying to take herself SERIOUSLY already. I wanted to be an actress, an athlete, I wanted to change the world and better mankind. I didn’t get pretty, I never had brilliant, and I sure as heck wasn’t labeled as mysterious. I wanted to be all these things that I wasn’t. Cute. Bah.
I’ve learned, however, that cute has a longer shelf life than beautiful. Cute isn’t an insult. Grandma’s are cute. Some of my favorite movies are also. And in my present day, I write CUTE.
I just checked goodreads to see how early reader reviews are looking for GOING VINTAGE (yes, I check goodreads, but only in spurts. I will try not to check again for a few months now. Or weeks). These are some complimentary phrases:
(exclamation points are my own)
Other reviews are less positive. Some find my writing to be meaningless, fluffy, trite, predictable, vague, stupid, boring, and one kind reader once wrote to tell me she wanted to cut me. Keep those positive opinions coming, kids!
If I let it, these words become as much a part of my writing process as my writing pants or character charts. I start to ask the most toxic questions, like, Who cares? What does this matter? Why try? Is seven diet cokes too many?
Writing isn’t only something I do, it’s something that I am. Take it or leave it, I write and live in an optimistic, rose-colored world or splendor and delight. For this, I will probably never win a major award or write a book that speaks to the core of my generation. I don’t do gritty or profound or twisted or raw. I still love to read these kinds of stories, still love to understand other world views and backgrounds. But when I spend a year with a book, I prefer it to be something that makes me giddy and satisfied, an escape for me and for you. There are days where I question this, days that I wish I was more of something else, but that’s like wishing I was shorter or had thicker hair.
After I started to write this blog entry, I found that I wrote almost exactly the same post 5 years ago. Isn’t it funny how the same themes come up in our lives, just like in our stories? I vaguely remember writing this as I revised Princess For Hire for my newly-signed agent (and went on to sell it at auction two months later). Although I want to edit this mother, I leave it here for you in all my pre-published glory.
Written on April 3, 2008

The other night, I asked hubby if he’d get the girls down so I could get a few more writing things done. Hubby obediently grabbed the kiddos and smiled. “Come on. Mommy has to write The Next Great American Novel.” 
For some reason, the comment made me twitch. I sat, paralyzed, staring at my computer screen for the next fifteen minutes. 
Let’s just get this out in the open now: 
I have not written, nor shall I ever write, the Next Great American Novel. 
I’m rereading To Kill a Mockingbird for the bazillionth time. Blows me away how at different times in my life, I pick up on different themes in this book. How the emotions are still raw and fresh, how I put it down and want to be better. To do better. And, whoa, I wish I could write like that! 
And then there’s my magical tweeny romp (Yeah, I said romp. Big fan of romps). I’m sure it’s destined for a pink cover–which would be poetic since the sweats I wear whilst writing say PINK on the bum. 
Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud of it’s glittery princess pinkiness. I hope readers love reading it half as much as I loved writing it. But I’ll tell you a secret–I started this book two years ago and I quit for awhile because I thought I wasn’t, I don’t know, delving into the human experience. When I idealized writers in high school, I pictured them hacking at a type writer with a stern expression and a black beret. That, or barrels of hard liquor and drowning in their own angst (Maybe that was all the punk music I listened to?)
I believed POWERFUL writing equaled SERIOUS writing. Which is a very limited view, and I could give you a million reasons and a million books why, but I’m in the middle of an epiphany here.
This silly struggle reminds me of a small identity crisis I suffered when moving from the West to PA. I decided when we moved, I would use my maiden name, Taylor, as my first name. Ditch Lindsey and the negative connotations that went with it. Start fresh. Because the thing that bugged me about being ME was everyone viewed me one way, and I wanted to be something–someONE– else. I was, on occasion, described as funny by my fans, snarky by my critics. And this was all well and fine, but what I really wanted to be was 
No one EVER labeled me as sweet. If you looked up sweet in the dictionary, you’d have to scroll down to the antonym section, and THEN there’d be my face. So I figured I’d change my name and become the sweet girl that bakes her neighbors cookies and intuitively knows how to fix everyone’s emotional breakdowns and talks in a sing song voice uh… other sweet things (see, it’s not natural for me). 
Well, Taylor didn’t last long. Because I was not, AM not, Taylor. I’m Lindsey-eye-rolling-one-liner-but-still-can-occasionally-bust-out-heavier-stuff-Leavitt. And I finally came to terms with this: 
That’s Just as Great. Just as Necessary. Just as Important. 
(except for moments of extreme emotional distress. You don’t want the funny girl around joking about Grandpa Frank’s gambling habit during his funeral. You want sweetness. So I try to fake it then. Or just avoid talking.) 
In the same way, it’s ok–nay, better than ok!– to write something that makes people smile and laugh and take a break from the so-called human experience. My writer friend, Lisa, wrote this to me when I was having one of my Who-am-I-as-a-writer? moments. (Lisa, I hope you don’t mind me quoting your excellence) 
“One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that it takes awhile 
to find our strengths. But once we figure it out, we need to go with 
it. The market is too competitive to try and be good where others are 
great. So, my strength seems to be novels in verse. Yours is 
definitely humor. And so, you are going to have to find stories where 
you can really make it shine, and it may be that you aren’t going to 
be a literary writer, but more of a commercial one. I think sometimes 
we look at other books and long to do THAT (I know I do) instead of 
embracing the kind of book we do well.” 
This really hit home for me. Because Harper Lee really rocked my world in high school, but you know what? So did Meg Cabot (ok, read her right AFTER high school. Was going to let you assume I was that young, but I’m going with the honesty theme for this post). Or PG Wodehouse, who said about his own writing…
“I go in for what is known in the trade as ‘light writing’ and those who do that – humorists they are sometimes called – are looked down upon by the intelligentsia and sneered at.” 
What a relief to hear P.G. recognize my fear for me–that my lightness would be considered lesser. Even though I never thought this about Sir Wodehouse. Bow down to you, Jeeves!
I think it’s key for writers go through these moments of self-assessment in order to become comfortable in their craft. Who am I? Where do I fit? Do I fit? Do I care if I fit? Do these sweats still fit?(Of course they fit. Even though the PINK looks a little bigger nowadays).
So, not the NGAN. But I’m happy with where my writing is going. I’m happy in my PINK sweatpants.

Jacket design for GOING VINTAGE

January 25, 2013

I’m not one for body art (my husband is actually in the process of getting his little teenage rebellion removed), but if I was, THIS WOULD BE MY NEXT (read: only) TATTOO.

Maybe I’ll make a snuggie out of it. A nice area rug. One of those banners they fly behind airplanes at the beach. Or just buy 10,000000,2020203824.304230 copies so I can display that beauty of a spine until eternity. And you too can own this beautiful jacket (with accompanying book) for the low low price of $16.99.

2 months until release, kids. I am slightly excited about this one.

13 Going on Now

January 22, 2013
Wet N Wild by lindseyleavitt
Wet N Wild, a photo by lindseyleavitt on Flickr.

I’m going to delete my old LiveJournal blog in a few weeks/months/whenever I get to it, so first I’m combing through old entries and making a “best of” kind of book for myself. I started blogging in 2005, five years before my first book was published, and I love reading through my journey to publication. Mostly. There is a lot that I just don’t want on the world wide web anymore, so over the next couple of weeks I’m sharing a few throwback pieces with you. THEN DESTROYING THE REST. Get it while you can.
This is a post I wrote on March 9, 2007. 
I’ve spent a good chunk of the day packing, an activity I do not recommend because it leads to backaches and heavy bouts of nostalgia. I mooned over pics of hubby and I in high school, back when we were chubby-cheeked and tan. Then I read through some old journals and came across this picture taken at my seventh grade water park trip.
I used to rip up pictures of myself in junior high and hide them in the couch. I don’t know why I thought the couch was a good hiding place and not the, oh I don’t know, garbage can. Maybe it was a cry for help. Maybe I was just too lazy to get up. Somehow, this survived. I used to OBSESS about this picture–and it’s not because the neon green on my suit put Kelly Kapowski to shame. At the time, this picture was living proof to anyone that dared to argue that I was unquestionably hideous. If I ever started to believe for a moment this wasn’t true, one glimpse of this picture would prove me wrong.
I wasn’t an insecure kid. I was smart, did sports and other activities, and had friends. I enjoyed life. But this picture is part of what held me back from true confidence.
My thighs were huge. My chest was flat. I didn’t know how to get my bangs high enough. I didn’t know how to dress. My ears looked pokey, my nose too ski-jumpy and I could not figure out how to smile for a picture. In short, I believed I would never “get” a guy, unless he was visually impared or especially desperate.
I started to get over myself in high school when a guy friend of mine admitted he had a crush on me in junior high. He said he followed me around the day this picture was taken because he thought I looked so good in the suit. I wanted to pull it out and point out my obvious flaws, but I’d been taught you shouldn’t argue a compliment. Especially when it makes you look psycho.
I look at this girl now and wish she could have known how beautiful she was, not because of how she looks in a bathing suit, but because of who she is. I long to show her how lucky she is to have a fully functional and healthy body, and that boobs and butts aren’t ultimately what’s going to get the guy.
But I can’t go back. The closest thing I have to a time machine is my writing. When I write, I think of her. Of me. Of who I was then and who I am now. What will make my writing really worthwhile is if I can someday reach a girl like me and somehow help her to be stronger, smarter, and secure enough in herself to rip up her “ugly pic” and get on with her life.